Andrew Alderson

Andrew Alderson is a sport writer for the Herald on Sunday.

Cricket: Black Caps poised to be hit for six

Former stalwarts urge batsmen to refine technique against spinners after five consecutive test losses.

Another shoddy performance by the New Zealand cricketers in the second test starting today in Sri Lanka and they will match the national record for consecutive losses - six.

That was set between January 1954 and October 1955 against South Africa, England and Pakistan. With five losses against the West Indies, India and Sri Lanka, New Zealand is again teetering on a precipice where fan anger turns to pity, or worse, apathy.

Sky TV's advertisement for the current winless series continues to grate with the line: "Still, nothing our boys can't handle." Viewers have a different take after being cheated of two days' test cricket last week by spinner Rangana Herath who tore the New Zealand innings apart like fresh chapati.

Only a Ned Flanders-type optimist could point to the fact that, if they lose this next test, they will still remain eighth in the test rankings on 76 points, unlikely to be passed any time soon by Bangladesh on zero.

John Reid led New Zealand to its first test win against the West Indies at Auckland in 1956 but was also part of the sides which lost six straight. Now 84, the former all-rounder remains passionate about how to address the slide.

"They've simply got to adopt a new technique against these spin bowlers. They've got time and they're professionals, so get on with it. I also had my failures but each player needs to find a trusted voice to sort them out. I remember [former South African opener] Eric Rowan delivered a clear message to me at one stage on how to play off the back foot against their quick bowlers like [Neil] Adcock and [Peter] Heine.

"The bowlers seem to be going reasonably well, it's just the batting let the side down. Mis-hits to the third man fence in one-dayers get snaffled up by three slips and a gully in tests. Get behind the bloody ball and don't cut so early in the innings. Work the singles. Be patient because tests always have periods when scoring is limited."

Reid also offered specific advice for individuals: "They need to sort out where [Kane] Williamson bats. What is he? He's come in anywhere from opening to No8 across the various formats. They need to make up their mind. He plays all the right shots but needs the confidence of the selectors.

"McCullum is a good player but sometimes he's rough as guts in tests. He's got to learn to play with more discretion. I feel for him because I had to curb myself at times but we're looking for solidity up top.

"With Ross Taylor, well, sometimes you have to tell some terrible lies as captain. In my experience [Reid led New Zealand to its first three test wins from 34 tests in charge], you've got to constantly talk about how you're going to win. Build up the ego of the troops. Convince them they're good enough. The same goes for the coach [Mike Hesson] but it must be hard trying to tell others how to do it if you haven't played a test."


Ken Rutherford experienced difficult times in 18 tests as captain from 1993-95. He secured two remarkable wins. The first came against Pakistan at Christchurch in March 1994 when New Zealand produced its highest fourth innings chase of 324 for five. The second came on the 'sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll' tour of South Africa the following summer.

It was the third - and last - time New Zealand won a test in South Africa. The team's form disintegrated over the rest of the centenary summer with five losses in seven further tests. Coach Geoff Howarth eventually resigned and Rutherford's test career ended with the final test in the first home series loss to Sri Lanka.

Rutherford says as captain he had to become thick-skinned fast: "The team needs to accept a bit of the public carnage for their actions. In these days of i-pads and the like, they'll be well aware of the feeling back home. When we were overseas, you tended to become cocooned - apart from daily telexes which would be read out at breakfast.

"The players simply have to accept the criticism and use it as motivation to prove people wrong. I hope there hasn't been too much switching off between tests. In these circumstances, the coach has to put his foot down and max them out with a couple of decent net sessions.

"The South Africans sent their guys away for a week from this current series against Australia and look what Michael Clarke and friends did to them on day one in Adelaide.

"One piece of advice I'd give them is to use their bats to play spin. Bring it out three to six inches from the pad rather than hiding it - because otherwise you get into lbw and bat/pad catch danger. Have the confidence to use your feet to smash the ball down the ground if need be. Spinners love seeing batsmen stay in the crease. They've also got to be able to sweep good length balls to rotate the strike.

"Herath is a steady performer but he shouldn't be ripping through you. He hasn't got a doosra, he's just traditional left-arm orthodox. Also, they should be queuing up to face the likes of a medium-pacer like [Nuwan] Kulasekara."

Rutherford says the basic benchmark for batting first in Asia is to score 400 or you're out of the game.

"I don't care if it takes them two days or two hours to get there, that's got to be the aim.

"I'm a James Franklin supporter after I saw him make a magic 200 at the Basin one day but he must have no confidence. A three off 43-ball innings [in the first test] doesn't seem physically possible for him.

"Another disappointment has been Kane Williamson. He hasn't really kicked on in five tests since that century to save the match against South Africa last summer. There's no point batting him as low at No8 in limited over matches. He needs to be managed better in his formative years. That might mean restricting his involvement in T20.

"I still believe the top four are our best batsmen but why do they play so expansively in the first five to 10 overs?"

- Herald on Sunday

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